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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is pleased to welcome Jamie Davies O’Leary back into the fold as our senior Ohio policy analyst. Jamie joined Fordham in 2009 after working as a public school teacher and Teach For America corps member. She was both an Education Pioneers fellow (2008) and a Truman Scholarship fellow (2004), and she holds a master’s degree in public administration from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

During her first sojourn at Fordham, Jamie focused on the teaching profession and on policies impacting teachers, such as teacher evaluations, merit pay, and the Teach For America program (for which she testified before the Ohio Senate Education Committee).

Jamie left Fordham to work in communications and advocacy for the Ohio Council of Community Schools, one of Ohio’s longest-running and largest charter school authorizers. In her most recent role as the council’s chief communications and advocacy officer, she oversaw the delivery of communications to schools, governing boards, and the media. She also managed the organization’s policy and legislative strategies.

The Ohio Education Gadfly welcomes Jamie back to the team, and we look forward to many more incisive blog posts and publications...

  1. Chad Aldis is quoted in this DDN piece posted late on Friday. It is about the currently-stalled charter law reform bill and how quickly various stakeholders think it will take for the bill to become un-stalled once legislators return to work later this month. Everyone seems optimistic, although everyone interviewed – including Chad – knows the bill could use some tweaks to make it even better. (Dayton Daily News, 9/18/15)
  2. Speaking of that currently-stalled bill, editors in Columbus opined yet again – as if on repeat – that Ohio needs charter law reform now. Luckily for weary readers, they at least have last week’s Ohio Supreme Court decision as a unique hook on which to hang their opinion piece. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/20/15) Ditto for editors in Akron. (Akron Beacon Journal, 9/20/15)
  3. If the ABJ editors sound a bit crankier than usual, it’s probably because of the two-day series they made out of the closing – months ago, before school started – of a charter school in the Akron area. (Akron Beacon Journal, 9/19/15). As with many charter school closings, it seems like it was overdue and that the
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  1. Let’s time travel back a couple of days where we find Fordham’s Chad Aldis quoted in a widely-distributed AP piece looking at what’s next for charter school accountability in the aftermath of this week’s state school board meeting and state Supreme Court decision. (Associated Press, 9/16/15)
  2. Moving in space but not in time, here’s a story from earlier this week in which local hipsters laud Fordham-sponsored UPrep Academy as a vital piece of the revitalization of the Franklinton neighborhood of Columbus. (Columbus Alive, 9/16/15)
  3. Our own Aaron Churchill posted a blog on Ohio Gadfly Daily earlier this week looking at the state board’s decision to set PARCC-test cut scores for proficiency below the level of college and career readiness. That post seems to have been bigger on the inside than the outside because it has generated a lot more interest in media outlets than one might have expected. Case in point, this story on the same topic from the PD which quotes liberally from Aaron’s blog and reproduces one of his comparison charts. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/17/15)
  4. Speaking of the state board meeting, editors in Akron opined in frustration following its conclusion. Specifically,
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  1. Before we get to the action from this week’s state board of education meeting, let’s take a look at a pretty important Ohio Supreme Court ruling in the case of Hope Academy Broadway Campus v. White Hat Management which came down yesterday morning. We’ve discussed this one before and you can find a concise summary here, but outside of the legal arena the story goes like this: charter school opponents think of it as a referendum on the fundamental structure of charter school sponsors/operators/boards while charter school supporters – and a majority of supreme court justices, it appears – think of it as fundamentally a case of contract law with a public-funding twist. The court’s decision swung toward the latter, ruling in favor of the management company. Our own Chad Aldis (J.D.) is quoted in two stories in regard to the contractual issues in the case. One from the ABJ (Akron Beacon Journal, 9/15/15) and one from Ohio public radio (WKSU-FM, Kent, 9/15/15). Here’s hoping the term “judicial gymnastics” doesn’t conjure up any weird images for you. And if you’re interested in coverage of the ruling without Chad or that term, you can check out Gongwer.
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  1. Chad is quoted in this piece looking at improvements in passage rates on reading tests for third graders in central Ohio school districts. Without exception, fewer third graders are being held back in reading in these districts due to poor scores on tests. Chad warns, however, of the possible downward creep of not only test quality but also scores regarded as passing. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/13/15)
  2. School funding in Ohio is complex and not well-understood by most folks. The last couple of weeks have seen analyses – along with resultant news coverage – of charter school funding by both opponents and supporters of charter schools. Neither side can agree on which way to look at it. Case in point, this guest commentary from a charter school supporter published this weekend in the Enquirer, from the weekend, responding to an article on the subject published last week. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 9/13/15)
  3. There’s a state board of education meeting today and tomorrow here in Columbus. Journalists across the state are hoping for some fireworks relating to the rescinded charter school sponsor ratings from earlier this year. They have been prepping this weekend. First up, the PD appears to have
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  1. Our own Aaron Churchill was among the panelists for a surprisingly-cordial discussion of charter schools in Ohio held in Dayton earlier this week. In discussion of the charter reform bill still pending in the legislature, Aaron said, “I think (the bill) tried not to impinge on charter schools’ autonomy and their ability to be flexible and nimble — some of those very benefits that we think are inherent in the charter school model.” Nice. (Dayton Daily News, others, 9/10/15)
  2. Speaking of that stalled charter reform bill, editors in Cleveland got their Google calendar alert and opined, again, urging the legislature to pass that bill as soon as they return from summer recess. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/9/15)
  3. Speaking of op-eds, here are two on the rescinded charter sponsor ratings (well, mainly just on the process of it) at the Ohio Department of Education. Editors in Columbus mainly just put their own sheen on the information made public so far but finally opine in favor of the state board of education keeping “a close eye” on the next round of sponsor ratings. (Columbus Dispatch, 9/11/15) Editors in Canton simply opine in favor of the state supe’s
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Lisa Hansel

“Programmatic series of studies”—that’s how one of my psychology professors described research on learning and memory around twenty years ago. Do a study, tweak it, try again. Persist.

I was reminded of that while reading this new volume by Tony Bryk and colleagues. After thirty years of constant reform and little improvement, it’s clear that there’s a fundamental flaw in how the education field goes about effecting change. Quick fixes, sweeping transformations, and mandates aren’t working. Ongoing professional development isn’t working either.

What might work much better is a sustained, systemic commitment to improvement—and a willingness to start with a series of small pilots instead of leaping into large-scale implementation. Guided by “improvement science” pioneered in the medical field, Learning to Improve shows how education could finally stop its reform churn. As Bryk et al. write:

All activity in improvement science is disciplined by three deceptively simple questions:

  1. What specifically are we trying to accomplish?

  2. What change might we introduce and why?

  3. How will we know that a change is actually an improvement?...

A set of general principles guides the approach: (1) wherever possible, learn quickly and cheaply;...

  1. Gadfly Bites is back on the beat after a long Labor Day break. Let’s cast our net back to last week, in the wake of the Ohio Department of Education’s release of 10,000 pages of emails and attachments (!) in regard to the withdrawn charter sponsor evaluations from earlier this year. It is unclear whether this piece from the Enquirer is opinion or journalism on the part of the cadre of authors, despite being tagged as the latter. What I do know is that our own Chad Aldis is quoted here, with two items standing out. First, he says, “Charter schools have gotten a lot of bad press over the last couple of years.” Truer words have rarely been spoken. And much of that bad press has been warranted. Also true, and likely more important in the context of this particular journalism/opinion piece: “Pointing fingers doesn’t get us one step closer to providing a better charter-school experience for our kids.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, 9/6/15) Other Gannett outlets also ran this piece.
  2. Here’s another piece from last week, in the immediate aftermath of ODE’s release of its emails. It contains a frankly incomprehensible chart but really concerns the question
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When we surveyed more than eight hundred college students six years ago, we found that most of them were planning to leave the state after graduation. This was a startling finding—and, recognizing its implications, Ohio leaders have made a concerted effort to retain college graduates (see here for an example). Meanwhile the job market has improved since the nadir of the Great Recession, making the Buckeye State a more attractive location for young people.

But what do the statistics say about Ohio’s ability to retain college-educated young people? According to a new Manhattan Institute analysis, a growing number of them reside in Ohio’s urban areas—what the author calls a “brain gain.” To arrive at this finding, the study focuses on twenty-eight U.S. cities that lost population and/or jobs from 2000 to 2013. Five metropolitan areas in Ohio fit those criteria: Akron, Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown. According to Census data, the number of college-educated young people—in the 25–34 age bracket and with at least a bachelor’s degree—increased in all five cities. Akron was the leader among Ohio cities with a 13 percent increase in college-educated young people, while Toledo was the laggard with an increase of just...